Thursday, December 5, 2013

{2013 TBR Pile Challenge Review} MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides

ISBN #: 978-0312427733
Page Count: 544
Copyright: June 5, 2007
Publisher: Picador

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Kathy's Review:
(Reprinted with permission from her personal blog, Grown Up Book Reports)

I am in awe of this book. Truly.

If you are squeamish about its subject matter (after all, the main character, Cal/Callie, is a hermaphrodite), don’t worry. That is such a small portion of the book, and by the time you get to it, you will basically be an honorary member of the Stephanides family, and you will be overcome by curiosity.

This is not the story of Cal as much as it is of her family. Starting with her grandmother, Desdemona, who raised silk worms back in Greece, and who fled her war-torn village to come to America with her brother, Lefty and settle in Detroit, Michigan. I should probably mention that this brother and sister married each other, a family secret Desdemona only confesses to Cal years later.

Because of the years covered in the book, you get a full picture of the history of the Stephanides family through the three generations leading to Cal. First, her grandparents’ story, then, her parents’ and finally, hers. Her childhood, fairly normal. Her first inklings that she was different from other girls. Her coming of age and finally discovering the differences – and her choice to live as a male.

Eugenides writes masterfully; drawing you in to this compelling family that seems ordinary on the surface but is teeming with secrets. Well deserving of the Pulitzer it won, Middlesex lived up to the hype and I’m glad it was on my list this year for the TBR Pile Challenge.

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